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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Meanwhile, life goes on

In a week of nervous, frequent checks of the news, of edgy unsettled questions, it is sometimes hard to remember that life goes on.  When the Westgate siege began, I was up at RVA in the cafeteria making pizza for "Senior Store", a massive and precisely orchestrated undertaking every month in which the Senior class works for many, many hours on Friday night and Saturday morning to prepare and sell mountains of food to hungry boarding students and visiting parents.  Donuts, egg-mc-muffins, chicken tikka sandwiches, bacon cheese burgers, taco salads, cokes, ice cream, and many other somewhat comforting and otherwise-hard-to-find foods are prepared in massive quantity, and consumed.  Because of hospital duties on weekends, I had not been in charge of any particular aspect before. Thankfully the kids knew what they were doing, so I mostly cheerled and obeyed orders.  It was pretty fun, but exhausting, which added to the emotional exhaustion of Westgate that afternoon.

We were also hosting Nathan and Sarah that weekend--they had come on an overnight bus from Uganda where Nathan is doing some research in his final year of med school.  Purely wonderful to see them on this side of marriage and (nearly) med school, the people who poured into Bundibugyo and our kids and whom we love.

Then, of course, as we recovered from school activities, visitors, and non-stop following the siege, life went on at the hospital, and sadly, death as well.  

I had struggled to keep baby I alive all the week before after she was born with a severe and difficult-to-survive-in-Africa congenital anomaly where her bowels were outside her abdominal cavity at birth.  She finally had surgery on the Saturday of Westgate, but when I came in Monday the doctors on call for the weekend told me that she was dying.  They had been unable to stop her slow and steady descent towards death, as it turned out, from a terrible infection she acquired along the way.  

Her dad asked me to take a photo as he held her in her final moments, and I was struck by the peaceful quirky little smile on her face.

In the context of all the death and loss of last week, Irene's passing was concrete and immediate and hard.  I had not cried for a baby's death recently, but this one got to my heart.  My own daughter had been praying for her and I felt like we were so close to saving her, but we just couldn't.
So I was pretty excited today to discharge the next severe-congenital-anomaly post-op surgical baby from ICU after he also nearly died.  Baby S, partly because of our experience with baby I, got powerful antibiotics the minute he began to deteriorate, and he responded.  He was born with his esophagus ending in a blind pouch so that he could not swallow, and there was a connection between his lower esophagus and his lungs.  It is a privilege to work closely with excellent surgeons who can actually save the life of such a baby.  Just now I was in the hospital admitting TWO (!) babies born with problems on the other end-imperforate anus, so there is no outlet to the GI tract.  They will have surgery tomorrow.  I have no idea why we got two at the same time. (Look at the xray and see the ng tube curling up in the neck instead of passing down to the stomach)

Baby S's mom was SO HAPPY to finally hold him after a week of being attached to too many tubes.

Though I've been working in ICU I pop into the outpatient clinic regularly to help.  One day I picked up a file and had a happy surprise:  Baby Patience, who had been one of our smallest survivors after months in NICU care, back to visit now that she was over a year old.  So happy to see her.

These are the moments that make the nights worthwhile.  

And lastly, we are blessed with three residents in Paeds, an unexpected bounty and a provision of God in our time of stress.   They have been a delightful breath of fresh air, and I hope God calls them all back to Africa.  Two are a husband/wife couple from SC and the other one is med-paeds and married; his cute-as-a-button daughter is pictured below with Scott who it turns out is exactly 50 years older than her.  They have birthdays coming up in November.

So there you have the rest of life:  activities and cooking, Bible studies, prayer, visitors, mentoring, patients, nights of struggle, death and life, defeat and victory, football and tennis.  Jack has had two games so far with "hat tricks" (3 goals in a game) and is a formidable force.  Julia has won her doubles matches so far.  Acacia is coaching elementary school kids, and has her own team that plays others intramural.  

And in the background, the uncertainty of the mall, the rubble, the findings, the bodies, the escaped terrorists, the next attack.  And deeper than that, the reality that God sees, knows, loves.

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